Childhood obesity climbing in Arkansas

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - A recent study is showing alarming results for childhood obesity in the state of Arkansas. According to the 2010 Arkansas Assessment of Childhood and Adolescent Obesity report, the obesity rate in Craighead County has tripled since 1980.

The study also indicates that 38% of Arkansas students are at risk for potential obesity problems. Jennifer Martinez, Program Manager for the NEA Charitable Foundation's Center for Healthy Children, says part of the problem is how busy parents are. "I think there needs to be more focus on physical activity, nutrition. I think parents feel they have to keep their kids busy, constantly on the move, but with that comes fast food easy and a very busy lifestyle."

Martinez believes parents need to refocus. "Parents need to get back to basics. Focusing on proper nutrition, family meals, having physical activities like taking walks together. This is all very important."

The Center for Healthy Children is a program geared towards children and their families that struggle with their weight. "We work on proper nutrition, exercise and just an all around healthy lifestyle. By doing this, we hope to create healthy habits that they can take on with them into their future."

These are 16 week sessions that include how to choose the foods you eat, portion control, eating on the go, exercise and parenting tips on how to cook light. "Eating healthy is a process. We offer healthy snacks during our session and our one rule is that the children have to at least try a bite of the healthy food we're offering. A lot of these children have never even tried things like tomatoes, bananas, watermelon. And they are hesitant, at first, because these foods are different textures they haven't tried before. But most of the time, we've found after they try it they really like it."

The Center for Healthy Children has a fitness room that includes a rock-climbing wall, hydraulic resistance machines, interactive Wii games, Dance Revolution Groove pads and stationary bicycles.

Martinez feels parents need to pay closer attention to what their kids are eating and how much daily activity they're getting. "Teach your children to fill their plate, half their plate with fruits and vegetables, just a small amount of protein and a small amount of bread or grain. And keep them physically active at least 60 minutes every day."

To check out the obesity results at your school, click onto this site.

For more information about the NEA Charitable Foundations Center for Healthy Children, log onto this website.

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